The recent news of Indian brutality towards visiting Nigerian students jogged an old memory. I filmed in India for two weeks, months before 911. AIR PANIC. The Indian people were universally warm and friendly to me…except at the airport. I kinda noticed a vibe upon my arrival but attributed it to my exhaustion after 3 flights over 30 hours.
On my departure day, I’m traveling alone with 3 critical connections. That morning my body had finally surrendered and I was now in full crisis mode, the most devastating intestinal distress I’ve ever known. I’ve traveled all my life; I’ve never before felt so vulnerable and needy. At the Mumbai airport, I stood in line, an elderly white Western female ahead of me. She was quickly checked and passed thru. I stepped up….and was immediately struck by the intensity of the guard, the sheer hatred and rage in his eyes. He had an automatic weapon pointed straight at my chest…and he looked as tho he’d really like to use it. For minutes I stood there as he pored over my pages of my past travels and visas. I felt the sweat sliding down my back, I felt the tremors in my abdomen and I was scared. Scared shitless? Fuck, I wish! He had no idea how very close we both were to an ugly international incident.
Eventually he waved me thru and I gratefully moved forward. He was perhaps even darker than I…but I felt the very same contempt, the same anger any earlier encounter with some American bigot might have generated. I now perhaps better understand…and we should all know that bigotry has no racial or color barriers…even among people of color.
This photo was taken on that final day, shopping for gifts in Hyderabad. My fear and distress are pretty obvious on my face. 😉
Yes my father was impressive, a Fulbright professor in Greece. But it was my mother who made our family function. She manifested FAMILY. So, in a foreign country (Greece) in the mid-50’s, Mom (Hazel DeMouy Smallwood) handled her business.
We learned to churn ice cream and create Cokes from syrup and shop at the markets. Mom didn’t so love jaunting off on adventures to Damascus or Istanbul or Bethlehem…so Dad and I went. But she soldiered honorably and lovingly, back home on Anatolia Campus.
This is a picture of our beginnings. How very fortunate we were.
My week began with an early morning MRI. This non-invasive tech has existed for some time but until recently was verboten for me. I have a chunk of shrapnel in my neck, inoperable and resting 1/4″ from my spinal chord. The tech makes any ferrous metals (with iron) vibrate. Several years ago, doctors persuaded me that so much scar tissue had formed, it was unlikely to move or go anywhere else and it appears they are correct. But it still freaks out every technician, for they can clearly see it in the images.
I laughed out loud when asked if I remembered “what year it had become lodged there?” Fuck yes, I remember the day and hour. I’m not overly claustrophobic but the coffin-like dimensions never escape my notice; I focus my imagination elsewhere.
So for about 40 minutes I underwent the drill. They’re searching for a nerve anomaly that is causing weakness in my left hand. They provide earplugs and stillness is critical. Intervals as short as 20 seconds and as long as 5 and half minutes proceeded to unfold…and the experience and sounds vary. At times, much like being sealed in a 55 gallon oil drum while someone beats insistently on the outside with a baseball bat. At times like being within a wondrous Wurlitzer pipe organ, the harmonics creating celestial sounds of beauty.
The last was the toughest and longest…it began loud and only increased. I was now restless and ready to go home. The machine generated this thunderous, unrelenting ump-ump-ump…and to my ears, I was being subjected to psychological warfare. Fuck waterboarding, imagine an angry mob screaming in your brain TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP… for about 5 minutes! I was OM-ing my ass off!
Hope they find something. No, not a brain, I’m pretty sure that’s still in there…but just barely.